, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 30 – A court has blocked the ejection of four judges, who were declared unfit to serve in the judiciary by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.
In a unanimous decision, the High Court temporarily halted the removal of Court of Appeal judges Riaga Omollo, Samuel Bosire, Joseph Nyamu and High Court judge Jeanne Gacheche from the bench.
The judges ruled that they have jurisdiction to look into the complaints lodged by the sacked judges against the board’s decision, because the board cannot be equated to the High Court or the Supreme Court.
“Pending hearing and determination of cases by the affected judges, they shall not be de-gazetted,” judges Jonathan Havelock, Alfred Mabeya, Joseph Mutava, Pauline Nyamweya and George Ogolla ruled.
The order will remain in force pending hearing and determination of the petitions by the affected judges, which will be heard separately.
However, orders suspending vetting by the Sharad Rao-led tribunal were set aside and the board allowed to continue with its work as mandated by the Constitution.
The judges asked the board to confine itself within the law and the Vetting Act, otherwise the court will not hesitate to intervene against decisions that exceed the jurisdiction of the board.
The judges were of the view that the High Court has powers to adjudicate on the matters of the board where fundamental rights of judicial officers have been breached.
“The High Court has jurisdiction to review an error of the vetting board where fundamental rights have been breached” the court held.
Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Judges Mohammed Ibrahim and Roselyn Nambuye respectively, will be vetted afresh as earlier directed by the board.
Aggrieved by Tuesday’s decision, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) which had opposed the petitions arguing that the court has no jurisdiction to handle them, said it will move to the Court of Appeal.
Advocate Charles Kanjama said; “LSK will be appealing against the decision of this court in the interest of justice in regard to the issue of jurisdiction.”
The court considered that it would be abdicating its constitutional mandate if it downed tools in the face of legitimate quests for intervention amid the deafening public interest or indeed the attempted ouster of its jurisdiction under Section 23(2) of the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule.